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Last hunt of the year (long read)

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Last hunt of the year (long read)

Old 12-27-2008, 03:29 PM
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Default Last hunt of the year (long read)

As had been the norm for the last 2 weeks in Minnesota, bitter cold and below zero wind chills greeted me as I departed for what would be my last hunt of the 2008 Minnesota archery season. The weather on the radio told me what I would encounter….a temperature of 2 degrees and a wind-chill of 21 degrees below zero. Had there been a month left of the season, I may have reevaluated my somewhat insane decision to venture out this afternoon, but this was it, my last chance until mid September next year. That was too long to wait……
I exited the truck, and the weatherman was right, the wind chill bit like a dog sinking its teeth into your arm. I donned my heaviest clothes that would not restrict my movement and headed to my tree stand. Rarely could the wind bite through my heavy fleece hat, but it was no problem today. The wind was in charge, and it made sure I knew it.
18 inches of powder blanketed the ground. Snowshoes would have been nice, but I did not own that luxury. It would be a long strenuous walk to my tree stand close to one quarter mile away, but I would pace myself knowing that breaking a sweat in these conditions and then sitting in a tree stand would make for an uncomfortable and quick hunt. At 3pm I climbed into my stand, brushed off the snow, attached my safety harness, knocked an arrow, drew back a few times to warm my muscles, and sat down to wait. The muscles I just warmed would quickly cool back down. Thankfully my tree stand was sheltered from the direct wind, in fact, it was rather silent below the vertical, rock cliff above me. No leaves were rustling, nothing was moving except an occasionally grey squirrel bounding between limbs. It was that silence that a bow hunter dreams of while waiting for a deer to make an appearance, the kind that rarely shows. I would have to be on full alert this hunt, as any deer approaching my stand was sure to be silent in the white powder.
The silence and inactivity gave me a chance to reflect on the hunting season that was about to close its doors. This was the same stand that I arrowed a mature doe out of in late September and 6 does in seasons prior to her. In early November I was fortunate enough to take a beautiful 10-point, corn and bean fed buck. I think my legs are still sore from dragging him out of the woods. Ducks sure seemed non existent in Minnesota this year…..unfortunately this is becoming the norm. More tiling of fields and less wetlands will have that effect. The saving grace was that roosters were again plentiful, and I got to be with my father as he shot his first rooster ever. He, as I always am, was in awe at the beauty of these birds. I have plenty of photos to tell the 2008 story, and my hopes were high that another could be added this afternoon.
With the deep snow, most deer had been forced to herd up even more than normal this winter. If you were on the food source, you were on deer. If you weren’t on the food source, good luck to you. As I looked around my stand, I realized I was wishing myself good luck. Tracks were sparse and the picked cornfield below me showed very little signs that the deer had been digging to reach the leftover corn. Skinny legs and powdery snow just don’t work well together. It was shaping up to be a difficult winter not only on the deer, but the turkeys, pheasants, and other wildlife. About the only thing benefiting from this snow were the grouse. Some of their vacant, overnight caverns were visible from my tree stand. If you would like to experience the closest thing to a heart attack besides having one, surprise a grouse in its winter borrow while directly underneath your feet…..you WILL be breathless.
The first hour and a half been quiet, not a surprise given the amount of tracks around me, just too late to get to another stand site. I would wait it out and hope for the best. Shortly after 4:30 I looked to my right and notice a partial downed oak tree has grown a set of four legs. I could see no deer, but I knew that oak trees typically do not have legs. I stood up and folded my seat away, fully feeling how stiff the muscles get in these temps. I’m not quite sure what causes it, but after sitting still for quite some time in the cold, your first movements are usually followed by shivering and numbing cold in your extremities. Not the case this time, as adrenaline filled my veins and gave me a shot of heat. Slowly but surely the year and a half old doe appeared from behind the oak tree. She was 50 yards away but meandering straight down the hill to my stand. Expecting other deer to be following her over the crest of the hill, I kept alert not wanting unseen eyes to detect the predator sitting in the tree. No other deer followed, it was just she and I. She moved slowly through the deep snow, which came close to the bottom of her chest, yet she made not a sound. She wasn’t browsing buds, but she was zigzagging back and forth picking up the few dead, dried oak leaves that lay atop the snow. I couldn’t imagine there was much nutrition in them, but it probably expended less energy than digging through the snow for an acorn or two. She continued directly at me and about eye level with me taking into account the lay of the land.
At 17 yards she made a move to her left, targeting another oak leaf resting atop the snow. Her back was covered with the snow that fell only a hour before, what insulation! This oak leaf gave me the chance to draw my bow. I was amazed at the silence of the situation. My bow was as silent as she. I anchored and let out a soft bleat as she neared her prize, nothing. I bleated again, louder, nothing. One more bleat and she stopped. I don’t know if she was looking at me or not as I only cared about that crease above her front leg. My pin steadied and my finger touched the release. Sometimes this motion is so fluid that I do not even remember aiming or touching the release, I just know the arrow finds its mark. This time was no different as the arrow buried from site just above her front leg. Her back legs rose out of the snow and kicked like a cow being milked for the first time; she plowed snow as she charged ahead. 40 yards, 50 yards, and at 60 yards she stumbled to her left, overcorrected and stumbled to her right and disappeared in the blanket of snow. Everything was silent; it was if the last 10 minutes never took place. I sat for a few minutes but there was no movement from the snow, her harsh winter was over.
I climbed down from my stand and went to the point of impact. No sign was found here, but beside her footsteps a color besides bright white was revealed. She lay where I had seen her fall. I set the bow down and lifted up my prize, a mature whitetail doe. Who could have asked for a better end to the season? I sat on the ground and took in all my surroundings for the last time this year. As is tradition, I gashed her belly to learn and understand what she had been eating during the last day. Her belly was filled with leaves, twigs, buds, and needles from cedar trees. Not a healthy diet considering this deer lived in farm country. There should have been corn, beans, and alfalfa in that belly. The harshness of winter was real and a thaw would be needed to reveal some of the food 18 inches down. Deer are an amazing creature and I have no doubt plenty will be there to greet me on September 12, 2009.


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Old 12-27-2008, 03:54 PM
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Default RE: Last hunt of the year (long read)

Excellent story Craig!! Congratulation's on your doe and on your season!!

I don't think I ever saw a pic of your buck. Congratulation's on him also.
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Old 12-27-2008, 04:32 PM
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Default RE: Last hunt of the year (long read)

Nice work and congrats, Love the snow!!!
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Old 12-27-2008, 04:34 PM
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Default RE: Last hunt of the year (long read)

Great read and congrats on the doe! I also scored a late season doe withmy bow yesterday. Something about taking a deer in the late season that is special to me. Like you pointed out, it is very silent in the woods this time of year. Then all of sudden things come to life when a deer steps out.
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Old 12-27-2008, 07:08 PM
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Default RE: Last hunt of the year (long read)

nice story and doe. congrats and nice job
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Old 12-27-2008, 07:18 PM
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Default RE: Last hunt of the year (long read)

great read
thx 4 sharing
Congrats on the season.
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Old 12-27-2008, 07:24 PM
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Default RE: Last hunt of the year (long read)

Congrats, and great story!
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Old 12-28-2008, 06:35 AM
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Great story and congrats.
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Old 12-28-2008, 06:43 AM
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Great read, congrats.
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Old 12-28-2008, 10:50 AM
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Default RE: Last hunt of the year (long read)

Man, you are a bigger man then I! Those are some bitter temps. Congrats on your last day doe.
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